Great Karoo, Eastern Cape
There’s a pioneering feel to life in the Karoo, immense distances, grand mountains and that dry semi-desert climate with crisp cold winters and baking hot summers. It’s far from the madding crowd and easy to find yourself the only ones in the huge landscapes, with just the company of a herd of klipspringer. The Little Karoo, traversed by the famous Route 62 through the picturesque towns of Montagu, Barrydale, Calitzdorp, Oudtshoorn and De Rust, is still farming country with rainfall on the Swartberg mountain range keeping streams flowing, but over the impressive Swartberg Pass to Prince Albert at the start of the Great Karoo, the landscape gets even wilder with large nature reserves and long distances between the few towns such as Beaufort West and Graaff Reinet.
It’s road trip country, with dramatic passes, stunning mountain ranges and vast open skies, but it’s also a place to disconnect from the busy outside world, get off the grid and just soak up the wild. Springbok, gemsbok and kudu, Cape mountain zebra bring the landscapes to life and staying on a nature reserve you’ll see even more, perhaps even a rare sight the aardvark.
Be prepared for extremes of temperatures, even winter days can get hot, before temperatures plummet to zero and you cosy up beside a log fire for the evening. A plunge pool and siestas In the shade are the best way to while away hot summer afternoons, until evening brings the cool. Winter is the perfect time for energetic hikes and mountain biking, spring sees the landscapes transformed by colourful spring flowers and the peace and tranquility of another age pervades the air the whole year round. Plus there’s a reason the South African Astronomical Observatory is at Sutherland in the far reaches of the Karoo, the skies are so clear and that the stars are brighter and more visible here than anywhere else, perfect for evenings by the fire-pit, chatting and star-gazing well into the night.